Shooting Fitty



Broadway & W 45th St, New York, NY 10036

Neighborhood: Times Square

"Different day, same shit, old mac, new clip Thirty two hollow tips, gloves, no rubber grip…"

The reporter and I stand quietly in the underground garage. We don’t want to look like we’re interested in shooting anyone, in any sense of that word.

Two minutes earlier the reporter received a call in the deli across the street. His desk told him that the rapper known as "50 cent" had just finished taping upstairs.

"He’s coming down but they said he has to wash his hands…something about making a cast in cement." Says the reporter.

I wonder how far the tentacles of our organization extend that we are getting eyewitness information from the MTV studios upstairs.

"I did that once when I was four," I say. "Made a cast of my hands in clay. My dad still has it."

Three women and two men are standing in the hallway with us; they’re waiting for their cars to be brought up. Everyone is quiet with exhaustion. It’s Friday evening after all. It’s been another long, grim, winter fist of a work week and everyone just wants to get home.

Our heart rates are up, possibly going faster than anyone else’s in the garage. We know that soon, 50 cent will step out of that elevator and we will have to get decisive.

What happens in the next three minutes may become a measure by which I am judged, certainly by the reporter, possibly by myself.

I tell myself that I will try to get between "Fitty" and his SUV and fire off -at the very least- one clear shot without taking a hollow tip to the back of the skull.

I can hear the testimony now: ‘I thought he had a gun…it was small, black; he was concealing it for chrissakes…I had no clue it was a camera’.

Earlier in the week, 50 Cent, an erstwhile crack dealer from Queens, kicked this guy named "The Game" (also a former crack dealer) out of his "posse" for lack of loyalty. The Game is now pursuing his own musical interests and thereby competing with 50 Cent. Shots were recently exchanged between the two artists’ gangs outside Hot 97, an NYC radio station that specializes in creating opportunities for this kind of controversy. One of 50 Cents’ guys was literally ‘capped in the ass’.

Whether you think the "Rap Wars" are publicity events to boost record sales or if you think these are bona fide hate crimes, it’s all theoretical at this point. The fact is there’s been "gunplay", and I am standing in a hallway waiting to ambush a man who has scars from past shootings.

The army of goons in the parking lot are testament to the possibilities.

It starts happening. The giant by the elevator commands us all to clear the hallway. We do what we’re told. We all slowly file outside and stand around in a mercifully tight group. The reporter goes to one side of the double doors. I go to the other. There’s a little bit of a crowd outside. The Black SUV backs up between the buick and the doors. Moments of intense expectancy. The three women want to see who’s coming out, and the Buick owner on the other side is on to me.

She’s whispering to a friend and looking right at me with a conspiratorial smile. "Watch that guy," she’s saying. The reporter and I make intensely brief eye contact. The big gears are stirring.

It’s no longer easy to act casual and some of the goons are starting to notice my furtiveness. Some cops only watch your eyes.

"If you’re with the press," one cops shouts, "show your badges and leave the garage."

There’s no way. I’m rooted.

There’s a little bit of doubt in his command. I can tell he’s not sure if I’m the potential press agent or if someone else in the group is. He’s looking around.

Partially concealed by an innocent bystander, I swivel my camera in front of me and quickly check the settings. There’s no point getting this far, then suffering a technical miscalculation.

A black man in a fur coat, sunglasses and a hat comes whisking down the corridor, through the double doors which are held open. In less than two seconds, he takes the three steps to the door of the SUV and disappears inside. I do my level best. I raise my camera and lunge sideways and over the top of the woman in front of me. Immediately two sets of policemen’s hands are lifted to block my shot.

(One might wonder: why are cops bothering to block my photograph? This isn’t The Pope exiting the Vatican in a compromised state of health. What level of autopilot are they operating on?)

I’m not happy. I’ve missed the shot. No amount of lip service is going to overcome the brutal actuality of this thwarted outcome. I waited. I tried my best on a Friday evening when I could have gone home to the warmth I know.

I’m standing off to the side, looking down and checking the blurry state of my digital failure, and someone quite close says "Hey".

I look up and there is 50 cent, four feet away, the real deal. He’s looking right at me. His hand is outstretched to shake.

I can’t tell you how uplifting this is. Perhaps I need greater perspective but I am, at that moment, elated.

The first guy into the SUV was a decoy. The real deal has a true and palpable animal charisma. He wears a yellow Yankees hat, slightly cocked and has on a yellow-hued fur coat.

I shoot him. I think he thinks I’m a fan. He steps back and poses, I take another shot of him.

He says something, I can’t remember what, (It’s all angelic to me) something like, "Here we go." Then he drapes both his arms around two of the cops who moments earlier had been trying to block my shot. All three smile.

I thank him. I’m deliriously happy at this unexpected act of generosity.

Fitty’s boys all look pissed off, like they’re angry he stopped to talk with a white boy fan, but hey, that’s why they’re not Fitty.

"Don’t be stupid, find out who you fuckin’ wit son ‘Fore we find out where ya bitch gets her hair and nails done"

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